Dueling Tax Initiatives: Prop 13 Arizona versus Arizona Tax Revolt

The following commentary was sent to Sonoran Alliance but was published in Sonoran News. We thought we’d also post it for your information and discussion. We also invite a representative from Arizona Tax Revolt to also send us information.

Dueling tax initiatives – Prop 13 Arizona versus Arizona Tax Revolt 

By Linda Bentley

ARIZONA – If both Prop 13 Arizona and Arizona Tax Revolt are able to collect at least 230,047 signatures by July 3, 2008, both initiatives could make the November 2008 ballot.

Although both initiatives claim to be modeled after California’s Proposition 13 passed by voters in 1978, Prop 13 Arizona’s language most closely mirrors the California initiative.

Prop 13 Arizona lays out a simple plan to:
    • Roll back property valuations to 2003 assessed full cash value or actual purchase price if after December 31, 2003.
    • Cap total tax at .5 percent for all residential property and at 1 percent for all other classifications of property.
    • Limit valuation increases to no more than 2 percent per year.
    • Eliminate exceptions (Secondary Taxes) to the .5 and 1 percent tax caps.

Arizona Tax Revolt appears to have two initiatives; one to rollback tax levies and the other to rollback valuations. The pair of initiatives, consisting of about nine pages of complicated verbiage, although they may have been inspired by California’s Proposition 13, do not appear to have all that much in common with the California initiative.

It too rolls back property valuations to 2003 but it caps taxes at 1 percent for all property and does not reasonably address how valuations would be calculated for property purchased thereafter.

Nowhere on its website www.ArizonaTaxRevolt.org does it spell out, in simple language, the mechanics of the initiative, nor do the brief descriptions posted on the Arizona Secretary of State’s Website.

Although the website, www.Prop13Arizona.com, is still a work in progress, the home page clearly states what the initiative will accomplish, while the full language of the initiative encompasses just a little over one page.

The California initiative was followed as closely as possible because it has survived challenges all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was declared constitutional in 1992.

Prop 13 Arizona so simplifies the methods for calculating valuations and taxes, it could conceivably do away with the assessor’s office altogether.

Neither of the initiatives eliminates the senior valuation protection.

However, the best way to determine how each initiative will affect property taxes is to look it up on the assessor’s site www.maricopa.gov/assessor, and click the link that says “View Tax Information” to see the current and historic taxes on the property.

From there, click the menu item near the top of the page for “Valuations,” then select 2003.

Take the full cash value and multiply it by 1 percent for Arizona Tax Revolt and by .5 percent for Prop 13 Arizona.

The results are going to be a mixed bag, depending where the property is located.

In Phoenix, after dramatic property tax increase from last years bond propositions, both initiatives could result in lowering taxes. Obviously Prop 13 Arizona, at .5 percent would have a lower result than Arizona Tax Revolt at 1 percent.

However, let’s say the property is in the unincorporated county island and the current tax for 2007 is $1,541. Using the 2003 rollback year with a full cash value of $282,500 and Prop 13 Arizona, taxes would be $1,412.50, a moderate savings of $128.50.

Using the same parcel and Arizona Tax Revolt, taxes would nearly double to $2,850, an increase of $1,309.

And, because Arizona Tax Revolt does not eliminate exceptions, taxes only stand to increase from there.

A home in north Scottsdale with 2007 taxes of $1,910, using Prop 13 Arizona would be reduced to $1,625, a savings of $285.

That same home, using Arizona Tax Revolt, would raise taxes to $3,250, an increase of $1,340.

In most instances, Arizona Tax Revolt would raise residential property taxes significantly.

Under “Frequently Asked Questions” Arizona Tax Revolt’s Website states, “… taxpayers benefit by lower tax increases.” However, in most instances, that would not occur until after an initial near doubling of the taxpayer’s current bill.

Prop 13 Arizona will lower taxes moderately for most at inception and limit increases thereafter, with no exceptions.

Do the math and then choose the initiative.

If both should make the November 2008 ballot, the initiative receiving the most votes would be implemented.


  1. kralmajales says

    Ok…let me ask something here.

    The primary source of funding for schools and school districts is property taxes, am I correct?

    We have among the lowest property taxes and bases in the country.

    We also have among the worst schools in the country.

    The Chamber of Commerce, economic development organizations, and a host of others in our business community constantly note that one of our biggest problems in attracting business is that we have a low skilled workforce.

    These same organizations call for us to “do something” about the quality of our K-12 schools which indeed correlate with that untrained workforce.

    What is prop 13 going to do to our schools? Where will we make up the funding that will be lost to school districts that have little already?

    Believe me…you can’t make up such a shortfall by simply “cutting administration” as some will argue.

    Unless something else is done afterward, this proposition will have a massive, detrimental impact on our schools. It will also have a major impact on the future of business in this state.

    Last, Texas (one of the most conservative states in the Union) values education in a major way. They pay for it. Their property taxes are double to triple ours. They have among the best schools in the nation. Their business community thrives. Ours doesn’t.

  2. kralmajales says

    One article on Prop. 13 in California:

    Devastation of Prop. 13

    Mammoth Lakes
    WAS AMONG the people who came here this winter to ski and to try to forget the real world in a white week of downhill mind-cleansing. But when I picked up the local paper, the Mammoth Times, the first thing I saw was a long interview with the chairman of the Mono County Supervisors, Andrea Lawrence, who ended the interview by saying: “There is potential insurrection out there.”

    Hard to believe while you are looking at or skiing the Sierra. But Chairman Lawrence has a grey-haired, no-nonsense look about her that persuades a visitor.

    “The obvious (issue) is how we are going to survive as a local government. You’re getting now into whether we can fill pothiles, build community centers, put fish in our streams and provide fire and police protection…if we are down to our last dollar, where do you want us to spend it?”

    Did I need this? That’s the way they talk in Los Angeles, where I was coming from. I had just finished several weeks of work for Money magazine trying to evaluate, in harder numbers, the impact of 1978’s Proposition 13 on life in California.

    Money’e editors asked me to do a study because I had often deplored the victory of the old vs. the young when the state voted to freeze propety taxes at 1975 levels for homeowners who stayed put.

    These are some of the numbers we picked up in trying to chart the decline in California’s living as revenue collection inevitably centralized all government in Sacramento.

    Prop. 13 worked — to well! There was a reduction of more than $200 billion in local revenues and, predictably, a decline in the services provided by local governments — and the essential local services are education, health care and public safety.

    New homeowners are paying as much as 10 to 20 times the taxes of neighbors in identical houses who have stayed put. That figure is predicted to reach 70 or 80 times early in the 21st century.

    More than 90 percent of the homeowners who benefited from Prop. 13 are in the same houses they owned in 1978. Why should they move, when other taxpayers are being forced to pay their share of the cost of government?

    California school funding and achievement have both dropped from 1970’s rankings in the nation’s top five to 1990’s rankings in the bottom 10.

    More than 40 percent of the property-tax relief has not been for homeowners at all, but has been an annual windfall for corporations and landlords.

    Local governmnets have tried to survive by inviting in auto dealerships and Wal-Marts to get a share of state sales taxes on high point-of-purchase volume. “Fees” are another way for localities to try to grab a few loose bucks: In Los Angeles County, there is now a $75 charge for group picnics in local parks.

    Prisons in the state are at 184 percent of capacity, and prisoners are being released before serving minimum sentences to make room for new ones.

    The state’s ratio of librarians to students has reached 1 to 8,512, compared with a nation average of 1 to 820.

    California state colleges have eliminated 6,000 courses in the past three years. Tuition and gees have been increased by 320 percent above the rate of inflation since Prop. 13 was passed.

    So it goes in the Golden State. It will take a miracle or a tragedy to arrest the California decline. The people who own the homes of 1978 are now passing their tax exemptions on to their children — the modern equivalent of royal land grants. Perhaps a giant earthquake, massive unemployment or riots by less-than-royal taxpayers might force a change, or at least a reconsideration of what California is doing to itself.

    I assume that’s what Chairmen Lawrence meant when she used the word insurrection.

  3. Political SPIN a few short years ago were called lies and I for one am sick of it. If you are too and are interested in reducing property taxes please visit the Arizona Tax Revolt WEB site. It will answer the questions raised in the two prior posts. If not give the Arizona Tax Revolt a call (928) 754-8305


    We welcome each of you to volunteer for the ongoing signature drive. And for an analysis of the Weaver measure click on “Message from the Chairman.”

    Because we could not let Bentley’s spin go unanswered, the following was sent to Linda Bentley in response to her Sonoran News article:


    Your “article” Dueling tax initiatives has stooped to a new low, but I presume that neither I nor your readers have seen anything yet.

    In addition to the complete fabrication of your “computations” you missed a golden opportunity to claim that in addition to taxes increasing substantially under the Arizona Tax Revolt your first born child would be taxed away as well.

    Show me your data… including a description of assumptions made, and calculations. Or do you believe facts to be irrelevant.

    Explain if you can how reducing the levies of all taxing entities by say 15% in 2009, and reducing valuations to the same valuations (2003) as under the Weaver plan except a year later in 2010 (actually another 2% savings) will result in a tax increase. If we can agree that 5-1=4 not 6 then you will have a hard time substantiating your “computations.”

  4. kralmajales says

    Taxed away Marc,

    Come on. Hyperbole!!!!!!!

    Our property tax burden is rated 32nd in the nation. You make it sound like we are the worst????

    Of course everyone wants lower taxes…sure they do…no problem.

    However, none of you explain what it will mean for our schools, for our local infrastructure, and what all this means for economic development and quality of life.

    And don’t you dare say that schools can better spend their money. That is crap and any parent in this state’s school system knows it.

    Finally, where do you advocate increasing taxes to pay for the devastation you are placing on our local governments?

    Sales taxes? Hidden user fees? State income taxes?


    No sensible Republican who cares about business and who cares about our children would buy either of these provisions.

  5. Kralmajalas,

    2 points:
    1) Yes, Texas’ property tax is super high, but there is zero income tax.
    2)The incredible tax revenue windfall resulting from high property values the past several years produced no positive results in our schools. Having served on a research and policy board that advised a state legislature on education issues I can tell you there are a lot of opportunities to shift money into the classrooms using existing funds.

  6. 1) Arizona schools are not among the worst in the nation; our per pupil classroom funding (not building)is 49th, Utah is 50th. Yet, our performance is much higher. Depending on which evaluation you use, Arizona students perform much higher than states that put much more money into their schools.

    The money factor is an odd one; it does not guarantee success but it does limit it.

    2) Texas has people losing their homes not because they can’t afford the mortgage, but because their property taxes are so high they can’t afford to keep them. Property values there are very low, by comparison, because they must be to offer relief to buyers who cannot afford the home and the taxes.

    3)The “incredible tax revenue windfall” is not directly beneficial to schools. The state collects the taxes, then divvies it up accordingly. Yes, schools did receive some extra funds in the last few years. But, all those were earmarked for increases in ASRS or for specific salary increases to teachers. It is disingenuous to say it resulted in “no positive results in our schools”. How do you measure teacher retention and moral? School budgets are based on their student count NOT the tax rate of the district. If a district has a high valuation, there are still limits on the amount that can be levied. The poor planning by the state on ASRS deductions, high insurance costs, and a flood of ELL students have offset the increases.

    I absolutely agree there are many opportunities to shift existing monies into the classroom. (once we define classroom) But we need to look at our patchwork tax laws and stop the piecemeal approach at reform.

    Adjacent ways, excess utilities, overrides, bonds, all forms of taxes in addition to basic property taxes. The schools did not invent them, the state offers them to the schools as means to provide the service they are created for; it is incumbent on the state to correct it. That does not mean eliminating funding, it means make it transparent, equitable, and with accountability.

  7. Schools should be important to all of us whether Republicans, Democrats or independents after all we are talking about our children’s education.

    It has been conservatively estimated that in excess of 20% of the K-12 students in Arizona are themselves not in this country legally. We are paying something like $8000 and more for ELL programs to educate Mexico’s children. Is it any wonder that little is being done to enforce our immigration laws?

    And while we are on the subject of our children, imagine the property taxes they will face in 20 years when they buy their first home. Perhaps 80% of the tax amount they will pay for the home will be due to inflation above the 2003 baseline year proposed in our initiative. Our kids will be paying perhaps 5 times the already high property tax we are paying today. This would occur in the present system and the Prop 13 plan, but not in the baseline valuation system proposed by Arizona Tax Revolt because property is not revalued for tax purposes upon sale.

    Not to worry about government as they will get a 2% plus the tax paid by the new growth revenue increase just like has been the case for counties, cities, towns and community college districts that have a property tax for the last 26 years. Should any taxing entity need more money like under California’s Prop 13 all they need to do is ask the voters and get a 2/3 vote in our case in a November election. The Weaver plan eliminates what they call “exceptions” but what in reality is any ability to raise revenue for any purpose no matter how many citizens desire it. The only recourse would be repeal of Weavers measure which would leave us with who knows what.

    Talk is cheap and will accomplish nothing. Read about and join the Tax Revolt by filling out the volunteer form at:


    Marc Goldstone, Chair.
    Arizona Tax Revolt

  8. What’s funny is nobody has mentioned the “special district” that has a HUGE effect on the public. Fire districts. There are A LOT of fire districts in the state that are not municipalities. Their $$ is from property taxes. Can these fire departments still provide the same level of service to the public in their districts with a budget only 1/3 or less of what they currently operate on. I think not. You may not need the fire department much, but, when you need them, you NEED them!

    So, these folks that want to roll back the taxes to 2003, if they need to re-finance or take money out on their home, will they want the current or the 2003 value? Exactly, they want both, lower taxes, and the high values on their homes. They definitely won’t want the appraiser doing their home at it’s 2003 values.

    Good luck with the tax revolt Mr. Goldstone, you’ll need it.

  9. Lynne Weaver says

    HappyinAZ, the assessor’s valuation is random and arbitrary and only considers general features of your property. It is quite different from an appraisal which deals with specific features

    Appraisals are used for re-financing. Assessments are used only for tax bills.

    Those of us who lived in California and saw first hand what happened after passage of Prop 13 know that public safety services continued unchanged.

  10. kralmajales says

    This will provide less funds for schools, for fire, for police, and for local infrastructure.

    Those who support it cannot deny it.

    They are left with stumbling all over themselves to say how they schools will be somehow better off, that getting the illegals out might help, that shifting dollars might help…all things that will not happen and that this will not force. Not in THEIR school district.

    Finally, the same excuses will pop up when we talk about fire and police.

    This is a stupid idea folks. It is fueled by anger and greed…and little thought.

  11. Lynne Weaver says

    kralmajales, we estimate about 80% of voters across the state support Prop 13 Arizona.

    Our current property tax system allows for unlimited taxation and we saw that in action during the speculative runup in property valuations.

    Those who benefit from unlimited government spending oppose Prop 13 Arizona.

  12. In response to the last several posts:

    The K-12 school revenue will not be reduced by any property tax reduction measure since Prop 301 approved by the voters in 2000 requires the legislature to make up any shortfall in property tax revenues.

    Municipal fire departments have done very well for the last 26 years under the identical 2% + growth levy limit. We propose to expand those levy limits to the separate fire districts. Should there be a shortfall in revenue all the taxing entity will have to do is convince 2/3 of those casting ballots to approve additional funds. On the other hand if the fire department wastes money the taxpayers can elect to reduce their property tax levy. How’s that for accountability to the taxpayer?

  13. Yeah, I inderstand that the assessments are different than an appraisal. In my post, you will see that I specifically said, “REFINANCE.” NONE of you would want your home appraised at 2003 values if you were looking to take out money on your house. Like I said, you want the lower values for taxing, but not for an appraisal that would benefit you. You are all not looking at the big picture only the perks that directly benefit YOU.

    Marc, you talked about “municipal” fire departments. Don’t they get their $$ from sales tax within those cities?? They don’t rely on property taxes like the so many “fire districts” within the state. How many fire departments in California rely solely on “property taxes??” When was the last Fire District Board Meeting you attended in any area of AZ?? I would suggest maybe attending one, maybe even around budget time before the new fiscal year and see just how much “wasting” is really taking place. I would also invite you to talk with the many thousands who use this valuable resource when they call 911 and ask what their impression is of the service provided.

    Hopefully, “if” either of these make the ballot, Arizona voters will be FULLY educated on ALL the effects these initiatives will have on EVERYBODY and not just the one-sided information they are getting from these people now.

  14. All my life I have heard people complain that teachers don’t make enough money and our schools our inferior to others around the world. But now these same people that whine about bad education will take badly needed money from schools to save a little, yes a little, cash. Mr. Goldstone can put any kind of mealy-mouth spin on this he wants but the bottom line is that these measures will take money from schools, period. He can’t possibly make the case that our schools will be better off if this “revolt” passes.
    For those of you who think that this will force government entities to spend their money more carefully, get real. The bottom line is that services will get cut and then you will want to get mad at your government for not doing more with less. Since when has a government done that?
    And you should all know before you vote that this does not just affect your little corner of the state. School districts and public servants from around the state will be affected equally. Many fire and police depts are now writing or revising reduction in force policies in case they have to let people go. Less police presence and slower responses seems like a good deal for saving a little money on taxes, doesn’t it? Again, there is no getting around the fact that public safety services from around the state will be damaged by this action. Justify it however you want, put any spin on it you want, taking money away from schools, police, fire, and other govt agencies will only hurt our communities more than it will help. Bottom line.

  15. Lynne Weaver, how on earth did you come up with 80% support for this proposal? Did you just poll your friends? Or maybe you just went around asking people if they would like to pay less property tax, not explaining the rest of the story? When you start throwing very biased numbers like that around it makes me wonder what you have been smoking.

  16. Lynne Weaver says

    Jay D, not smoking a thing. We sampled everyone from the far right to the far left and about 80% support Prop 13 Arizona.

  17. In response to Post #13

    Please visit and READ the information on the Arizona Tax Revolt initiatives at: http://www.ArizonaTaxRevolt.ORG which shows the error in your argument about property appraisals.

    Arizona today has two property valuations neither of which is used when you apply for a loan or line of credit on your home. The first valuation is Full Cash Value (FCV) or an approximation of market value the second is Limited Property Value which can not exceed FCV, and increases slower than FCV during periods of rapid real estate price inflation. Your mortgage company does its own appraisal that is used to determine the parameters of your loan.

    Sure Municipal Fire Departments have other sources of revenue, just like your fire department. I am referring to the Paramedic and ambulance services. Taxpayers believe that when they need these services they will be provided since they have been paying taxes to the fire department for decades… well that is not the case. Here in our local fire district the average cost of a trip to the hospital is $700 and I bet you would be shocked to know what you would be charged. Find out, call your fire department and ask, then get to work to promote the Tax Revolt initiatives which you can do on the WEB site by filling out the “volunteer” form.

    Arizona voters will be fully informed come the November election however we need your support now just to allow the democratic process to proceed and for the question to appear on the ballot. The fire departments and their labor unions will likely outspend us tax fighters 3:1 but we believe that in the end people will make make the right decision for themselves and their children. The fire departments will go on providing the services we taxpayers expect or we will just have to replace the free spending board members with budget minded taxpayers!

  18. Lynne,

    As you can see we have some folks out there who believe even higher taxes are the righ way forward. We know better!

    How about you refile your initiative to correct the two showstopper problems I identified and communicated to you. It is pointless to be wasting the time and money of the good folks that are collecting signatures for your initiative that will never be allowed onto the ballot.

    If you are wiling to use real statistics (80%??) and tone down your rhetoric we would be honored to have you rejoin and help promote the Tax Revolt measures.

    Marc Goldstone
    (928) 754-8305

    The text of the messages sent to you identifying some of the MANY showstoppers with your initiative as written follow:

    December 29, 2007
    Seeing that 2007 is almost gone, and since I am in the spirit of giving, let me pose the following questions:
    1) Would you please clarify your intent with defining a term in subsection (5) “Baseline Full Cash Value” and later referring to this definition in subsection (6) as “Full Cash Value.” Is it Baseline FCV or just FCV? Was it your intent to create this ambiguity for the courts to decide?

    2) In Subsection (5) you use the word “Beginning.” In the context that you have used it this means, in 2009, 2010, 2011, … So the Baseline FCV in each of these years is the FCV from the 2003 tax bill. Then in Subsection (6) you define the FCV in years after 2009, in other words 2010, 2011, … to instead be the previous year’s FCV plus up to a 2% increase. So which is it in 2010, the 2003 FCV, or the 2003 FCV plus 2%. Was it your intent that the courts flip a coin?
    May I suggest, both to save face and to promote property tax reform, that you just drop your initiative and if still willing to fight for lower property taxes instead act in some capacity to promote the Tax Revolt initiatives. Together we would have the clout to push the legislature toward a worthwhile referendum of “their own,” rather than just another band-aid fix.
    In addition to the single amendment concerns that are somewhat subjectively interpreted there are more than a dozen other serious problems and pre-election showstoppers with your measure as written. As the months go by if you are still working against the Tax Revolt, I will have no choice but to disclose each of these publicly.
    Lynne, I would disclose all the problems with your ballot language right now. Except that given your intent to strike down (by repealing sections 18 and 19, rather than amending them) all my hard work, if somehow your measure were to be upheld and get more votes, that would be folly as you could just re-file and with six months to collect signatures be a real threat to the Tax Revolt.
    You read the good book “I’m Mad As Hell” which made it clear that Jarvis and Gann had to work together, not on competing measures to be successful. They found an accommodation and once again I propose that we do as well.
    Marc Goldstone
    December 12, 2007
    I have spoken with our Atty. at Perkins Coie Brown and Bain and he confirmed my suspicions that your measure is in FACT in violation of several constitutional provisions and as such will be barred in pre-election challenges from the ballot.
    I will disclose to you ONE of MANY, MANY showstoppers just to demonstrate that what I say is FACT not fiction. Initiatives start with OFFICIAL TITLE followed by AN INITIATIVE MEASURE. So far so good, then your initiative redacts the text of the old section 18 and 19.
    Directive #1 states:
    1. Article IX, Section 18 and Section 19, Constitution of Arizona, are proposed to be repealed as follows if approved by the voters and on proclamation of the Governor
    This directive sounds good but it is PROCEEDED not followed by the text of the two sections being repealed.
    Lynne, In spite of this latest personal attack, how about you rejoin the tax revolt and work to promote the best and only measures on the table?
    You are wasting the time and money of your volunteers collecting signatures. So swallow your ego and let’s join forces to help all those working for the tax revolt!
    Marc Goldstone, Chair.
    (928) 754-8305

  19. I would encourage everyone to look more closely at these propositions and think well about this issue. Unfortunately we are being guided by rhetoric that is full of half truths and hidden agendas.

    Prop 13 type legislation or tax revolt initiatives that blanket all secondary taxing agencies are irresponsible and WILL do harm, especially to those smaller special taxing districts and specifically those who have worked to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s dollar.

    I work in a small fire district whose tax rate was adjusted down to account for massive increases in property assesments over the past couple of years. We stood almost alone in our efforts to combat rising tax bills for our constituants. I regret that many of our “peers” in government did not take the same approach, but we did.

    As a result of our efforts we stand to lose big if these intiatives are passed. We work in a rapidly growing area where infrastructure is struggling to keep up with growth under the current tax structure. If our budget was limited to that of 2003 and further limited by 1% growth annually, we would in fact lay off firefighters and close fire stations. Even if we could survive on our 2003 budget, which isn’t a reality, we could not sustain our current workforce at 1% growth. That does not cover cost of living increases, double digit increases in healthcare costs, or increasing contributions to the state retirement system. Notice I have not even spoken about fire trucks, fire stations, or other service related expenses. If you appreciate your local fire service, you would not implement any of the propositions described thus far.

    I agree that the tax burden on the average Arizonan is rising at an unspeakable rate. That said, there are already measures in place to limit fire districts specifically. Currently, fire districts are limited to a cap of $3.25 per $100.oo of secondary assesed value on residential properties. This was recently increased from $3.00 based on the fact that fire districts, and specifically smaller fire districts, could not continue to keep up with growth at the previous cap.

    In addition to the tax ceiling for fire districts, they are governed by local fire boards which ARE ACCOUNTABLE TO YOU. if you are upset with the fiscal managment in your local fire district, I would encourage you to launch a recall effort on your board members and affect change locally.

    It may be difficult for some of you to believe but I am a republican and a fiscal conservative. I would support limiting tax growth in areas other than public safety. If someone has the good sense to recognize the damage that this would do to small, locally controlled fire agencies, and if they had the courage to write a bill/proposition that limited our tax burden while preserving our public safety resources, I would be the first to support it. In the absence of public safety considerations however, I will not support the “tax revolt” and will encourage anyone who might read this to do the same.

    Thank you,


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